Trillion Dollar Coach Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Trillion Dollar Coach will help you become a better leader in the office by sharing the life and teachings of businessman Bill Campbell who helped build multi-billion dollar companies in Silicon Valley.

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In 1984, one of the most iconic Super Bowl commercials aired for Apple’s first Macintosh computer. Referencing George Orwell’s 1984 novel and appealing to controversies of it’s time, the commercial was a hit. But did you know that one of the minds behind the decision to run the ad was a former football coach? His name was Bill Campbell, and Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle is his story. 

Executives and product team leads at Google who worked with Campbell wrote this book. It comes from over 80 interviews with the many others that he influenced before his death in 2016. 

After Campbell’s first football coaching job was a failure, he chose to enter the business world. After working at Kodak, Apple, and others, he turned to coaching these behemoth companies that we all know today. Coach Campbell had a big impact on some of their early decisions. Many of these were choices that helped them progress to become trillion-dollar companies. 

Here are 3 of the most significant lessons from this one:

  1. Showing your emotions at work is a great way to help people feel more comfortable to open up and share their true personality and potential.
  2. Diversity of opinions, especially those who don’t contribute as much, is crucial to business success. 
  3. The greatest power in helping others progress is building trust.

Let’s see what this giant of a man has to teach us about leadership!

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Lesson 1: To improve your employee’s satisfaction and performance, learn to show the right emotions in the workplace.

Bill Campbell was well-known for his casualness and friendliness, even in the most formal of settings. From his profanity to giving bear hugs and even blowing kisses to others across the table in meetings, Campbell wasn’t afraid to show his personality.

After Steve Jobs’ cancer diagnosis, for example, Bill was in the hospital to visit him daily. While some may argue that showing emotions at work is a sign of incompetence, it’s the mark of an efficient leader. 

A study by Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill discovered that emotional openness in the workplace improves team performance and employee satisfaction. Fostering this kind of connection between employees also decreases absenteeism among team members. It feels good to be ourselves, and science shows that when we do so at our jobs, we improve the workplace.

If you’re afraid of showing emotions like Bill Campbell in the workplace, don’t worry, you don’t need to go that far to reap the rewards of it. Think of more simple ways to show a little personality in the office.

Find out what works for you by trial and error, and don’t give up. It may be as simple as asking people how they are doing, chatting about their personal lives, or being curious about what they’re working on.

Lesson 2: The best ideas may be hiding in the minds of your top talent, so make sure that even the quietest of people has a say in meetings.

As Bill began his work in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s, the majority of executives were men. Apple’s head of HR in the US, Deb Biondolillo, was one of the few women in a leadership position at the time. She was known for always sitting at the back of the room in weekly staff meetings.

Campbell suggested that she “get to the table!” and participate more by moving to the front, which she tenaciously tried one day. As another top executive wondered why she was there, Bill let him know that he had decided to have her sit closer. Deb knew then that this new change would be a good thing because Bill had her back. 

Although eccentric, Campbell’s methods made him a great champion of getting more women on board in meetings. He learned to pick the best players and get them into the game front from his sports background. And he wasn’t wrong when it came to bringing more women into the spotlight. 

Research agrees with Campbell on this point, too. A 2010 study in the journal Science reviewed what contributes to the “collective intelligence” of a team. Smarter groups, they discovered, let everybody participate, showed more emotional intelligence, and had more women, just like Bill promoted.

He continued to support women in business throughout his entire career.

Lesson 3: When you build trust in others, you open up a wealth of potential to make a difference for the better.

Campbell’s experience helping Deb Biondolillo get involved in meetings helps us understand another powerful way great leaders influence others. The reason that Bill could help Biondolillo and the other executive that questioned her coming to the table was because they both trusted him.

Without the trust of others, Bill wouldn’t have been as influential as he was to these giant companies, and to our world today. So how do we understand trust?

Trust is an enthusiasm for taking a risk on someone because you have positive expectations for their behavior. People trusted Campbell because they knew, as he had shown time and again, that he would deliver on his promises and treat people well.

One of the simplest ways he did this was by listening to others. Bill was known for focusing his full attention on people when they talked, but he also was a champion of asking questions. 

A Harvard Business Review paper from 2016 preaches that asking questions of others is what the best listeners do. The power of questions is in their ability to provoke spontaneous inspiration.

For example, I recently hired a coach myself. Just like what Bill Campbell did for Apple and Google, my coach helps me see things that I can’t by asking me all the right questions and listening to my responses. I trust my coach just like the executives in these companies trusted Campbell, and I’m reaping the rewards of following my coach’s advice.

Trillion Dollar Coach Review

Wow, this one impressed me! Campbell’s story and philosophies in Trillion Dollar Coach are inspiring and informative. As a creative trying to figure out my career, this story of change and growth helped me feel like anything is possible!

Who would I recommend the Trillion Dollar Coach summary to?

The 35-year-old who is working at a startup, the 54-year-old manager of a large team, and anyone who loves to hear an inspiring true story.

Last Updated on October 12, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.